Is there a bigger waste of time than a company meeting?

Preface

A company meeting was announced, and nobody seemed to know what it would be about. It didn’t feel ominous like the meetings we’ve had, and it wasn’t our quarterly financial update because our CEO hadn’t released the numbers yet.

Still, I knew something must be up because pastries were provided at the start of the meeting. Why did that raise my antennae? Because free pastries are merely a diversion. The goal is to get people to say “That meeting wasn’t so bad. We got pastries out of it.” I don’t buy that jive…and for good reason.

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We had a company meeting yesterday, and my one prevailing response to it is: Is it possible to find a bigger waste of time than a company meeting? Maybe some things are, but I know I’d be hard-pressed to come up with something that’s a bigger waste of time than one dude talking for an hour and giving quotes by Michael Jordan and Sun Tzu. Even more so when you have no idea what the dude is talking about. Seriously, during the meeting, I wanted to stand up and shout “What the fuck are you talking about, Walter?”

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Among the gems from this meeting were these.

  • Our new boss man gave some examples of corporations buying out companies and letting the acquired company’s products - the ones that made that company an appealing purchase - basically die on the vine. Really? You don’t say? I’ve never heard of anything so preposterous.
  • I swear I’m not making this up. Our new boss man actually said, “Every order is important now.” Yeah. Every order is important now. Because we used to give them the seagull treatment and crap all over the things that made us money.

I sure am glad we all sat in our cafeteria for an hour so we could hear things like that. Oh, and the quote from Michael Jordan was just the icing on the cake. Maybe next time you can throw in a quote from Nick Young or something.

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Stub our collective toe?

As I recently wrote, office communication can be pretty offensive. Not in a Howard Stern sort of way, mind you, but offensive all the same. The other day I received one of the most offensive emails I’ve ever seen…and it had nothing to do with pills for the crank or Russian mail-order brides It was addressed to me and a couple other people involved in a certain project. The group leader (or coach, or champion, whatever buzzword is used to describe that particular job duty) exhorted all of us by saying, “The goal is to make sure we do not stub our collective toe.”

Excuse me a minute.

I apologize for that. I had to take a dose of Pepto Bismol to settle my stomach just for writing those words.


The goal is to make sure we don’t stub our collective toe? There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll begin with the obvious. The goal isn’t to make sure we’re putting out something of quality, but rather that we don’t embarrass ourselves in the process? In other words, it’s OK to put out a mediocre product as long as we don’t make fools of ourselves? A lofty goal indeed.

Secondly is the figurative aspect of this. Even if - because we’re working as a team - we’re supposed to think of ourselves as one organism, we only have one toe? Seriously, even sloths have three toes.

And if in this figurative work organism, there is only one toe, then who gets that designation? Frankly, when you think about one toe, your first instinct might be to think that it’s expendable. However, if the organism only has one toe, then it seems like a pretty crucial part. Which begs the question: is the group leader the toe? I wonder.
Oh, and I nearly forgot that this message also included the utterly offensive “due diligence.” It just occurred to me that if such a thing as surf-rap existed, a great album title would be “Dude Illigence.” Hey, wait a minute! That’s not a bad idea. Screw you guys! I’m off to become the world’s first surf-rap artist.

Trust corporations? Surely you can’t be serious, Mr. Brokaw!

I was driving around yesterday and I heard one of Tom Brokaw’s curmudgeonly American Stories. In this one, he talked about how “the millennials” are different than “the greatest generation” and the Baby Boomers. He went on to ponder whether the millennials will have faith in traditional things like government and corporations.

Really, Mr. Brokaw? You have to wonder why millennials might distrust corporations? Allow me to welcome you to 2014. You know what this generation has seen from corporations? They have seen corporations downsize and move American jobs to Mexico, Asia, and everywhere other than the U.S. More and more American workers are ending up out of work. And why? So the CEOs of those corporations can pad their bank accounts and build vacation homes in exotic locations. Meanwhile, office drones are doing the jobs of two or three people whose jobs have been sent to someplace where the labor is cheaper.

I understand. Things were different when you were a lad. You’re damn right they were different! People used to be able to count on a pension after putting in their time with a company. Now most of us are faced with the idea that we’ll have to work until the day we die because we’ll never be able to put away enough money to retire. And all the while, we’re expected to frame everything with this question.

So you’ll have to pardon those of us that don’t have any faith in those entities that do whatever they can to suck the soul out of their employees in the name of bigger profits and a happy board of directors. Maybe the millennials will have faith in corporations when those soulless corporations do something to warrant the faith of people instead of screwing them out of jobs, benefits, and a living wage. 

Company slogan!!! It’s fantastic!

A message went out to our entire site yesterday announcing a contest for a slogan for our branch. (“Slogan contest!!”) First of all, our uberfuhrers bought us out six years ago. The fact that we need a slogan now tells me that someone has a budget for posters and a goal to make those posters happen. Aside from that, do you really think a slogan is going to turn things around for us? But hey, I’m a team player, and I’m going to do my part. Here are some slogans for your consideration.

  • Where careers take off…to Asia.
  • When you absolutely, positively needed a good product 10 years ago.
  • I went to work here and all I got was this lousy polo shirt.
  • Circling the drain since 2008.
  • What is this customer service you speak of?
  • The world’s second longest-burning Dumpster fire. Thanks, Cleveland Browns.
  • Of course we can find our ass with both hands.
  • At least we haven’t lost any jets…yet.
  • We don’t have the resources.
  • Pardon our right-sizing.
  • Fuck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.
  • And then, there’s this one:

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A typical office conversation or…talking loud and saying nothing

WARNING: This post contains corporate buzzwords and may induce violent vomiting. Proceed with caution.

Office Drone #1: “We have to do our due diligence and take care of this low-hanging fruit.”

Office Drone #2: “And we would, but we don’t have the bandwidth.”

OD1: “That’s why we need to think outside the box here. We need to find a way to get the team on the same page.”

OD2: “Right. We need to synergize the team. You know, I’ve pinged you with several ideas.”

OD1: “I know, but let’s take that offline. Right now we need to focus on these knowledge gaps in the critical path.”

OD2: “I agree. We have to address these gaps if we want to stay relevant.”

OD1: “Right. And we have to make sure that everyone on the team is fully engaged.”

OD2: “To make sure they’re engaged, we have to maximize everyone’s core competencies.”

OD1: “Without question. And those core competencies must be sustainable.”

OD2: “Obviously…if we want to grow our business.”

OD1: “It’s all about doing things with fidelity.”

OD2: “Yes. Fidelity. What time is it? Noon? How about we continue this roundtable over a couple martinis?”

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Ways to make meetings more exciting

I got invited to a meeting at 2:00 yesterday afternoon. As usual, there was no reason for me to be there. I’m not going to linger on that, however. After all, how much can I share about a meeting where I didn’t listen and didn’t participate. The trouble is that every meeting is an exercise of stifling boredom. Here are some ways to make meetings more interesting.

  • On general principle, the person that called the meeting should make an entrance like a game show host in the 70s and speak into a skinny microphone like Gene Rayburn used.

  • While we’re on the topic of 70s game shows, can we make the format like The Match Game? It gets everyone involved…and it gives us the chance to use off-color humor like Charles Nelson Reilly.

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  • Let’s do NBA-style introductions for all the meeting participants. Come on! That will spice things up. “He’s a marketing director in his eighth year from the University of Maryland…” Oh, and get those two average-looking chicks to stand by the door and act as cheerleaders. 

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Meet the new boss

We had a site meeting yesterday in which the new boss introduced himself. The new boss, by the way, is on a two-year contract. With all the downsizing (sorry, right-sizing) the company has done over the last several years, we all know why the new boss man has a two-year contract.

So the guy gets up there and gives his spiel, and then he asks if there are any questions. One person asked a question, then the new boss explained that his American audiences usually have lots of questions while his Asian audiences don’t have any. No one else had any questions and he was shocked by this.

Listen, dude. There’s a reason that nobody had any questions. We know why you’re here. Would you ever see the prisoner who’s been sentenced to death asking all sorts of questions of his executioner?  

Think of it this way: The less you get to know about us, the easier it will be to close the doors on our site.

Dale Earnhardt Jr, office drones, and the top of the mountain

I was listening to Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio on the way to the Pit of Despair - errrrrmm, the office - yesterday and I heard them ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. to describe the emotions he felt after winning his second Daytona 500. Junior’s response was that you can’t describe it. He went on to say, “Just imagine in your profession, making it to the top of the mountain.”

So I closed my eyes. And I tried to imagine making it to the top of the mountain in my profession. And you know something? I couldn’t do it. Not because reaching the top of the mountain seems like some unfathomable task. It’s because there is no top of the mountain in my profession. Hell, I could be standing on top of the mountain right now and not even know it. That’s too depressing to consider. However, the truth remains that I wouldn’t even know what the top of the mountain looks like. I have to imagine that it looks a lot like getting off of this mountain and climbing a different mountain entirely.

That being said, allow me to congratulate Dale Earnhardt Jr. for winning his second Daytona 500. Just know this, Mr. Earnhardt: most of us drones are closer to the futility of Al Bundy than to achieving something as noteworthy as a victory in the Daytona 500.

Efficiency? Never heard of it.

I went online at work yesterday to take the ISO quiz required of all employees. Not surprisingly, I didn’t remember my password to log in to the site where I need to take the quiz. I mean, of all the 38,148 passwords in my life (I’m sure George Carlin would have something to say about that), the one for work training is probably the one I’m least likely to remember. I mean, that piece of information is as important as knowing your mother-in-law’s birthday. So I clicked the forgot password link, thinking that I would be redirected to some page where I could reset my password. What I got was an email stating, “Unfortunately passwords can not be reset on this site, please contact the site administrator.”


Let me see if I’ve got this straight. The only reason I went to this training site is that I have to take this ISO quiz that you say is vital for all employees. Only I need the assistance of someone - in Singapore - to reset my password so I can take the quiz (which really measures nothing) that I would like to skip. Ah, there’s nothing like efficiency. And this is nothing like efficiency.

Friday snuck up on you?

I received a message first thing Friday morning from someone detailing everything I needed to to to finish a project by the end of the day. It was no big deal really, but she closed the message with, “Sorry for the late notice. Friday snuck up on me.”

Friday snuck up on you? So Friday is like Cato lying in wait to ambush Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies?

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Look, I don’t know where you come from, but for me Friday has always followed Thursday. That is to say, once Thursday happens - and you’re aware of it - Friday usually follows. How does something that happens as regularly as a day of the week sneak up on you? 

And seriously…Friday of all days. It’s the one day of the week that office drones look forward to. That’s why when I see someone on Friday and ask how they’re doing, that person generally responds, “It’s FRIDAY!” 

I can accept a lot of things…even the work dropped in my lap on a Friday. But I can’t accept that Friday snuck up on you. Just in case that really is the truth, here’s a photo of a calendar. You’ll notice that Friday always comes after Thursday.

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